Friday, December 11, 2020

‘Willow’ - Taylor Swift - detailing the trials an tribulations of love

Taylor Swift is back at it again. On Thursday she surprised fans all over the world with the announcement that her new album Evermore was being released, a mere five months after her record-breaking Folklore. ‘Willow’ is the lead single from her latest album and is the sequel to Folklore’s lead single ‘Cardigan’.

Decidedly more upbeat than its sister song, ‘Willow’ details the trials and tribulations of falling in love with the right person at the wrong time, but provides hope that if it is meant to be, it will be. 

She does love a cliché. 

The folky guitar picking technique used on the record is reminiscent of Swifts ‘Invisible String’ and for good reason. A look at ‘Willow’s’ accompanying video shows Swift following a string through various scenes to find her man, going with all the twists, turns and near misses it takes her until, spoiler alert, she finds him again. Hooray for star-crossed lovers!

Hang on a minute, I think I’ve seen this film before (sorry). This is not the first time that Swift has sung about loving then losing then loving again, and any Swift fan (or even casual listener) will know that to review a Taylor Swift song properly, we can’t simply listen to only that one song. So cast your mind back to 2008, when a fresh-faced, nineteen-year-old Swift stood on a balcony in a pretty dress, crooning about Romeo and Juliet and how, even with the world (her dad) against them, they found a way to be together. 

What a beautiful ‘Love Story’. Nowadays, of course, a thirty-year-old Swift has much more grown up ideas about love. For example in her ‘Willow’ video she stands on a balcony…in a pretty dress… crooning about a lover that she can’t be with… How times change.

All jokes aside though, this is really a grown up ‘Love Story’ and is classic Taylor Swift storytelling, with all the subtle symbolism and powerful imagery we’ve become accustomed to. Over the years Swift’s love life has been well-documented in the press, the good, the bad, the ugly, but this song feels like a departure from all of the bitterness in the past. 

Despite the hardships that a relationship may face, there is light at the end of the tunnel that everything will work out. If we are to separate the sister songs, we could reasonably argue that ‘Cardigan’ is when Swift’s characters first met and experienced the dizzying highs and lows of young love and ‘Willow’ is when they are reunited as adults. Where ‘Cardigan’s’ video is a stark, blue-grey world of loneliness and heartbreak, “Willow” is all warmth and light and hope. Both songs are dreamy and whimsical, however ‘Willow’ is realistic in its ambitions.

 It isn’t looking for a love to defy the ages, but a comforting kind that is full of trust and honesty, that fairy tales often fail to mention. The illusion of the perfect love story has shattered for Swift, but she is relieved by what she has found, rather than jaded. 

Or perhaps this is not a love story at all and is instead Swift coming to terms with who she is now, both as an artist and a person. The allusion to ‘Love Story’ can’t be a coincidence, as earlier this week she released a preview of the new recorded version of the track, all part of her ongoing feud with Scooter Braun over the ownership of her old masters. Perhaps a younger Taylor Swift wouldn’t have had the resilience to face this challenge and ‘Willow’ is her showing how far she has come now that she is able to do that. 

Whether it be about her professional or personal life, Swift shows that she will not break under the strains of life and has learnt to go with the flow, “bend with the wind” – just like a willow.


Ellie Insley


Image: Vevo

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